31 goal attempts, 12 shots on target, six goals and a point apiece this London derby between West Ham United and Arsenal had everything, and was quite possibly the most enjoyable Premier League game so far this season.
In an odd season which is still reeling from the effects of Covid-19, the missing link remains with no fans. However something’s never change. In one corner West Ham forever in the shadow of their London neighbours, the highly successful Arsenal and a team who the Hammers have a poor record against with just 1 win over the Gunners in the league in the past decade. Then there is Arsenal who player for player are a better side than West Ham, but find themselves below them in the league and trailing David Moyes side by seven points and with the same games played.
If one was to take just this season as a measure of greatness then West Ham are a few miles ahead of Arsenal, that doesn’t mean the superiority has been switched to the extent of how Chelsea have surpassed Arsenal, but it is getting there. This was underlined by the 32nd minute of this match when West Ham were leading 3-0. But Arsenal dug deep, they showed their old self and the harm they can inflict on West Ham by means of Alexlandre Lacazette and the ever impressive Martin Odegaard who reminded one of the great Dennis Bergkamp with his slick and professional timing on the ball.
Arsenal have been a poor side domestically this season, but against West Ham and indeed in the last few weeks they have showed a bright glimmer of the future under Mikel Arteta.
Jesse Lingard has been one of West Ham’s smartest moves in years, the other was the purchase of Tomas Soucek and both players influenced the game early on. Lingard scored his 5th goal in the league for the Hammers and then two minutes later assisted for the young Jarrod Bowen to add a second. There was a moment of disbelief that West Ham were 2 goals up against a side they found so hard to beat for decades. But here we were. Just past the half hour mark Soucek, arguably West Ham’s best player of the past 10 years made it 3-0. These felt like crazy times and the picture painted on Arteta’s face said it all.
But don’t let a sleeping tiger relax too much and when Arsenal got a goal back just before half time there shot a warning sign. The goal looked to have been scored by Lacazette, the player on the best form for Arsenal currently but replays showed that it took a wicked and quick deflection from Soucek who was unfortunately awarded the goal.
The next goal would win the game for West Ham or for Arsenal get them right back into the mix and it went Arsenal’s way. It happened just after the hour mark when West Ham defender Craig Dawson who has had a very good season put the ball into his own net. It was actually a great finish by Dawson, comical because of the end result, but a finish indeed. With half an hour to go this was feeling like the perfect set up for Arsenal as the game remained end to end stuff. Both teams had their gloves off and any type of managerial tactics were not going to suffice here. Also without the fans it was nice to see how an atmosphere can still be built up when there is all to play for and both sets of teams are playing well, and playing to win.
Arsenal’s third goal arrived from the creation of Nicolas Pepe and the head of Lacazette, there were just eight minutes remaining. The result started to look inevitable, that Arsenal were going to come back from 3 down and win the game 4-3. That never materialised, had it West Ham would have been crushed. Without it they were deflated but a point was a point at the end of the day. Even so Moyes’ side almost won it with what would have been one of the most spectacular goals in Premier League history.
Declan Rice, the defender, took the ball from his own half and went past a few players looking for the pass. He didn’t find it as he advanced on the Arsenal goal and within that fleeting moment decided to take a shot, why not? It would have been a goal for the ages, for the Gods and most certainly for You Tube. However it came to nothing and every neutral watching the game sighed as the dream goal became just a well worked chance, to be forgotten in time.
The match ended 3-3 and did little for Arsenal, although with that point they did move up to 9th place. The damage was more inflicted on West Ham who remain in 5th place and are 2 points behind Chelsea but now have no games in hand.
The Hammers Champions League place has been dented, but hasn’t been denied.
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